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Breaking down the Hector Santiago trade

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In the end, it was more about taking a chance with former top prospect, Alex Meyer

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the biggest trade made by the Angels before this year's trade deadline was that of Hector Santiago going to the Twins for Ricky Nolasco. The Angels also traded Joe Smith for 20-year-old Jesus Castillo from the Cubs, but the trade of Smith, whose contract expires at the end of this season, was hardly unexpected.

Santiago on the other hand was controllable through the end of next year, though was eligible for salary arbitration after this season.  Santiago had been hot and over the month of July his ERA was just 1.78.

In the end, this trade was really about swapping prospects Alex Meyer from the Twins with Alan Busenitz from the Angels.  Busenitz was an unranked prospect in the Angels system. 25-year-old Busenitz was a 25th round pick in 2013 and spent most of this season in AA before being promoted to the Salt Lake Bees on June 25th.  In Arkansas this year, he had a 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings with 32 Ks and only 5 walks.  Busenitz has 253.3 career minor league innings with a 3.55 ERA and 216 Ks.  In Salt Lake this year, Busenitz was beat up to the tune of 11 ER over 13 innings.  Busentiz also struggled initially in AA when he skipped over High A ball, but upped his velocity from the low to upper 90s.  He had back end bullpen potential and seemed like a good prospect that could be big league ready in the next year or two.

Alex Meyer on the other hand, was the #18 ranked prospect in the Twins system that is pretty much big league ready now.  Meyer has moved into the Angels system as the #12 prospect.  Meyer was a 1st round pick by the Washington Nationals back in 2011 and before the 2012 season was ranked the 83rd best prospect in all of baseball.  The Nationals traded Alex Meyer to the Twins for Denard Span and before the 2014 season, Meyer had risen tot he 45th best prospect in baseball.  Meyer struggled in 2015 and was moved to a relief role.  He started the 2016 season in AAA and was back to a starting pitching role. Meyer has dropped off the top 100 prospect list in 2016.

Eppler believes Meyer will be ready for a starting pitching spot on the 2017 roster.  In essence, Eppler traded away Busenitz, a known relief pitcher that may be ready in a year or two, with Meyer, a starter with a high potential upside that is pretty much ready now.  Meyer is 6'9" and throws a fastball in the high 90s (that can touch 100).  Meyer has plus stuff, but also control issues.

TOOL PRESENT FUTURE
PROJECTED ROLE NUMBER 2/3 STARTER ON 1ST DIVISION TEAM / CLOSER STUFF IN BULLPEN
Fastball 70 70
Slider 60 60
Change-up 40 45
Control 50 60
Command 40 45

All told, I think the Busentiz/Meyer part of this trade could be of great value to the Angels in 2017, who are in desperate need of good starting pitchers.  It's definitely a bit of a risk, but one that Eppler seemed to think was worth it.

The part of this trade that made everyone wonder, was Hector Santiago for Ricky Nolasco.  Nolasco has struggled his last few years and has a 5.44 ERA over the past 3 seasons with the Twins. They were probably happy to see him go.  The Twins are paying the rest of Nolasco's 2016 salary, so this saves the Angels some cash.  In addition, the Twins will send 4 million to the Angels which should make up for the difference in salaries for 2017.

Throughout their careers, Nolasco's ERA is about a full point higher than Santiagos.  He walks less and strikes out less.  They have pretty comparable WHIPs.  Santiago is probably a slightly better pitcher right now and if you are talking immediate impact, the Twins probably won this deal.

Eppler is looking at 2017 and has clearly written off 2016.  This move was mostly about Meyer, wth Nolasco as the side deal.  It's really too soon to tell if the Angels won this trade, and we won't know until we see Meyer pitching for the Halos during the September call-ups (which is highly likely).

It would seem this deal means a 2017 rotation spot is Meyer's to lose.